L. Neil Smith's
Number 259, February 15, 2004

Marriage, Nipples, and Sheep

The War of Janet's Nipple
by L. Neil Smith

Exclusive to TLE

Unless your brain's been frozen in a vat of liquid nitrogen for the past few days, you know—like everyone else within a lightweek of the planet—that during the recent Super Bowl, the right half of entertainer Janet Jackson's upper apparel was suddenly removed by her fellow performer Justin Timberlake (a name I know only because I have a 14-year-old daughter), revealing her naked right breast on national TV.

Okay, okay, my daughter informs me that she abhores Justin Timberlake, and make that almost naked. I'll come back to that in a minute. But before I take this dissertation further, I suppose I have an editorial obligation to make it clear where I stand on the issue of breasts.

I like them.

Someone semi-famous observed recently that to men, no breasts are entirely uninteresting. That's absolutely descriptive of yours truly. Now and again some cute young suburban matron decides that it would be convenient to nurse her baby while she stands in line at Wal-Mart or the DMV, and it generates instantaneous hysteria in the broadcast and print media. It's at moments like this that we discover once again how far we haven't come from Plymouth Rock and the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

I, on the other hand, find such a tableau inoffensive and, well, charming. It's a welcome reminder that I'm still alive, and that the most important parts of living one's life are wholesome and pleasant. I never found any greater contentment than watching my wife nurse our baby.

As breasts go, Janet's right is okay, neither too large nor too small. Although we can't be sure, of course, of the degree to which it was being propped up and enhanced by underwires, trusses, cantilevers, and other Howard Hughesian architecture. I'm being a Fair Witness now, having never seen her left breast—maybe next Super Bowl. If it were either of those things, too large or too small, I suppose somebody who has as much mazoola as she does (not to mention a baby brother who knows as many plastic surgeons as Jacko does) could do something about that.

In any case, I have no problem at all with Janet Jackson's right breast.

I do have a huge problem, however, understanding the individuals—mostly men, judging by the outraged condemnations of it I saw on TV—who object to having seen it. As the late Cordelia Chase (who had pretty nice breasts herself) often put it, "What is their childhood trauma?"

What, indeed? Hell, the first thing any of us ever sees is a breast. (Maybe the first thing these guys saw was a plastic bottle of formula.) And those of us who received our initial sex education from the glossy pages of National Geographic have seen breasts of every size, shape, color, and location imaginable. This fuss seems just too weird.

To me, anyway.

Sometimes you learn more from what's not said, than what's said—which reminds me of a story I heard told in a college anthropology class. Back in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, some New Deal do-goody sociologists brought a number of Navajo Indians from the Four Corners to visit Chicago. I don't know how long they were there—a few days—taking in all the sights to be seen in the City of the Big Shoulders.

When they got them back to Tuba City or Window Rock or wherever, the sociologists interviewed the Navajos to see what they thought of a place as far removed as possible, in every way, from everything they knew. I suppose that most of the usual things got noticed and talked about: Lake Michigan, the Loop, the Shedd Aquarium, the Planetarium, Marshall Fields. Any city with a Wacker Drive—location of the most vicious anti-gun publication in America, Reader's Digest—gets my attention.

What didn't get mentioned—astonishing the do-gooders right down to their academic argyles—the one thing that the Siberian-Americans didn't discuss in their interviews, the one thing they didn't seem to have noticed at all, was the single most conspicuous and obnoxiously noisy contraption in the city, its famous elevated railway system or "El".

A lot of theories have been generated since then to account for this odd phenomenon. My mom grew up in the Four Corners area during this very period, and her father was an Indian agent. She says a very likely possibility is that the Navajos were having their own little joke at the expense of the sociologists. They did it all the time, she says, to missionaries, anthropologists, and other pests sent to bother them.

On the other hand, if I recall correctly, this was one of the founding moments of something called "Cognitive Dissonance" theory, which holds, among other things, that if an object or event conflicts sufficiently with a person's worldview, the person may just not notice it. This may be a reason Democrats don't seem to have noticed that the Minimum Wage they hold to be the very keystone of civilization causes minority youth unemployment and is a principal cause of inner city violence.

Now what, I pretend to hear you asking, does any of this have to do with Janet Jackson's right nipple? Only this: Ms. Jackson's breast was not, in fact, naked. At least a quarter of it was covered—and as decently as by any Bikini, had the covering been anything other than what it was—by a little item of BDSM hardware called a "nipple shield".

BDSM? Look it up.

You see, Janet's nipple (her right one, I don't know about the left) is pierced from side to side. (This would be a good time for the more squeamish among my readers to say "Ewww!") The shield is a disk—there are as many different designs as you can imagine; hers was a sort of sunburst—with a hole through the middle that fits over the nipple. A little metal bar is then inserted through the pierced nipple and little balls screwed onto its ends to hold it. It keeps the shield on.

Unlike a great many of my fellow human beings—perhaps even most—I find this kind of jewelry inventive, decorative, and provocative. And unlike many of my fellow human beings—perhaps even most—I actually noticed the damned thing (although I didn't watch the Super Bowl, I saw the coverage the next morning on the Drudge Report). The remainder of humanity, much like those Navajos with the El, much like the Democrats with Minimum Wage, seem to have blotted it out of their consciousness.

I saw and heard not a single mention of Janet's jewelry on any TV program, although the offended bellowing over her extremely minimal self-exposure went on and on for days and the FCC swore ominously to "investigate" the whole occurrence. I read not a single line about it in any newspaper or on any well-thought-of Internet news site (Matt Drudge included) and only stumbled on it finally on a punk "body mod" site.

So why go on about it this way? Because many libertarians know a lot of really terrible things about this poor, sad world we live in and its blood-soaked history. Things—the corruption of Alexander Hamilton, the homocidal madness of Abraham Lincoln, the truth about the Lusitania, the story of Operation Keelhaul—that would whiten the hair of most "civilians" if you could ever get any of them to pay attention.

That's the trick, of course.

Most people prefer to go on living in the bright, colorful cartoon world you see at the end of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, [VHS or DVD] and in order to do that, they have to believe a whole lot of "impossible things before breakfast": the policeman is our friend; taxes are levied for the benefit of the taxed; Iraqis are ecstatic to have been liberated by America.

That's why they missed seeing Janet's jewelry that Sunday. It clashed with their view of the world. That's why they think the road to peace is world domination, and the path to domestic tranquility is to outlaw the very act of self-defense and everything associated with it. That's why the nation blotted Waco out of its consciousness—and conscience.

That's why I've always met the public eye-to-eye and have never been gentle with them. I have always delivered a philosophical and political two-by-four to the top of their skulls, just to get their attention. It works every single time, but "older, wiser heads" in the movement have always tried to ignore it as if it were, er ... nipple jewelry.

The way to freedom is not through subtlety. You can't fool a people into wanting it, or sneak up on them the way that Libertarian Party LINOs ("libertarians in name only"—who have a great many cognitive dissonance problems of their own) invariably insist on and demand.

Look how well it hasn't worked at all for the last 30-odd years. If you try it, people will go on missing the El, not seeing Janet's bauble, or the deck guns on the Lusitania, or the refugees being sent back to Russia in boxcars, and after this historically crucial year of 2004, when there are no more free elections, they'll try not to see the chains and razor wire of the camps they've been hauled away to.

They'll call them "Sunshine Camps".

Three-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith is the author of 23 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collection of articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at lneilsmith.org. Autographed copies may be had from the author at lneil@lneilsmith.org.

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